Wednesday, August 17, 2005


Its now more than 2 months since I landed up in Mumbai. Though I had been to this city many times before either on pleasure trips or for work related to my job, it is for the first time that I am living as any normal Mumbaikar would live in Mumbai enjoying its life as much as facing the asinine struggles it presents. I was deliberating since long on what should I write about. I still don’t know what I am going to write in next paragraphs but one thing is for sure it would have to do something with this city. The city which conjures so many images at the same time. The city which is an amalgamation of good and bad, ugly and beautiful, vigor and lethargy, vitality and mundane. The city which is a great leveller. The city which has seen a utopian dream to transform itself into an Indian SHANGHAI. The city which is as famous for its celebrities as for its BHAIS. So much so that I am tempted to call Mumbai, MUMBHAI!!!

Chhhheee Chhhheee” or “Shhhheeee” and “Puuuuchhhhh” are two sounds which seem ingrained in the ethos of the city. Don’t start wondering what it is all about!!!! It took me some time to figure it out. In the wee hours of that morning, I was feeling really sleepy so I called it a day and thought to go back from my college to catch some sleep. I came out of the institute. At 4 a.m. in the morning roads were seemingly wide and silent. I was waiting for an auto. All of a sudden I heard the sound “Chhhheee Chhhheee”. I turned around and the first thing that came into my mind was AIDS. You people guessed it right. It was a prostitute. A 20 something starved looking girl with deep probing eyes trying to figure out her prospective customer. She was really garishly dressed with heavy make up on. Moments later an auto arrived. Ignoring that girl, I just boarded the auto. The sound of the engine was unable to muffle the sound I heard few minutes earlier. It just kept resonating somewhere inside. That was not the end. The sound came back to me at many more occasions, whether it was a late night stroll on Juhu beach or me coming out of a late night show. Also the sound was not restricted only to prostitutes. The sound was useful for gigolos, gay sex workers, lesbians and surprisingly some children (both boys and girls) offering oral sex services. It sounds sickening but it is the reality of the city camouflaged by neon lights, large well lit hoardings looking down upon you and page 3 parties. So now whenever I hear this sound the first thing that comes to my mind is not AIDS, but suffering, hunger, lack of morality, helplessness, hopelessness, wretchedness……..
Puuuuchhhhh” is the other sound which presents another facet to this insomnia afflicted city. Mumbaikars use this sound to call one another. May be people here don’t have time to remember names or may be all faces are nameless, all having similar expressions and emotions. But this sound is really useful to call for another roti in a dhaba or to stop an auto or to call your friend who is lost in crowd. The owner of shop uses it to keep a check on his aides. Salesmen use it to best effect to track their customers. Everyone and anyone can “Puuuuchhhhh” you any time! Back in Punjab calling someone this way is considered an insult. You reserve such behaviour only for pets. But here nobody minds it. Actually nobody has time here to massage his or her false pride. This sound represents the character of Mumbai to me. Crowded, fast, tolerant, resilient, ever on move, and capability of bouncing back from any disaster….
Mumbai has so many things to write about. So if I get a nice response to this article, I may come out with a sequel to it. Till then SHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!Zzzzzzzzz!!!!!